Dangerously Sexy

Dangerously Sexy

A Chapter by Nicole

Dangerously Sexy: How Stephenie Meyer’s Novel Series Twilight Condones Abusive Teen Relationships


          The Bestselling book series by author Stephenie Meyer, called simply Twilight by the general public, has caused a sensation amongst young women around the world since the publication of the first volume in 2005. Now almost seven years later, the infatuation of girls everywhere with the main male heartthrob in the book, Edward Cullen, hasn’t slackened at all. Teenage girls and young women still camp outside movie theatres for days preceding premiers of the films that retell the book series. But with so many of the world’s impressionable teenage girls looking with adoring eyes at the characters in Meyer’s novels, the relationship dynamics between the two main characters have raised the question of what is acceptable in romantic teenage relationships.

The Twilight novel series follows the relationship of the two main characters, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, who are both teenagers in high school. Some of their interactions raise questions and suspicions that Edward, who is a vampire, conducts himself in a way that is inappropriate and abusive towards Bella, who is a human. One such scene, taken from the final novel Breaking Dawn, occurs on the morning after their wedding while they are on honeymoon:

Under the dusting of feathers, large purplish bruises were beginning to blossom across the pale skin of my arm. My eyes followed the trail they made up to my shoulder, and then down across my ribs. I pulled my hand free to poke at a discoloration on my left forearm, watching it fade where I touched and then reappeared. It throbbed a little.

So lightly that he was barely touching me, Edward placed his hand against the bruises on my arm, one at a time, matching his long fingers to the patterns… (Breaking Dawn 89)

            This is one of the many passages in the novel series that has caused so much concern amongst parents and well-known voices such as Dr. Phil, regarding mental health and healthy relationship dynamics. With so much debate surrounding these novels, the public is forced to answer difficult questions about the nature and definition of abuse in relationships. What constitutes abuse? Are there any circumstances under which the physical harm of a significant other in a romantic relationship is okay? How are novels like this one affecting the teenage girls of today’s generation? There are plenty of die-hard fans that will stand behind this novel series until the end. But to really answer these important questions, the public will have to look beyond the romantic glamour and glitz of the books and ask themselves what impressionable teenage girls might take away from the situations represented in the novel.

            The question of what should be considered abuse in romantic relationships isn’t a new one. The statistics are chilling; one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a known victim of some form of abuse from a dating partner (Davis 2008). Dr. Jill Murray, a therapist and author, utilizes the definition of dating violence set forth by the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and affirms that abuse in a romantic relationship is “the intentional use of abusive tactics and physical force in order to obtain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner” (Murray 8).  Dr. Murray also calls attention to what specific questions need to be asked of parents in order to determine whether or not an abusive situation is actually occurring in a teen relationship with their daughter:

 - Before my daughter met her boyfriend, she had more friends than she does now.

- Her grades have declined in the past weeks or months.

- Before she started dating him, she was more outgoing and involved with her family, school activities, and/or place of worship.

- She frequently cries or is very sad.

- If he pages her, she must call him back immediately.

- He told her that he loved her early in their relationship.

- He is jealous if she looks at or speaks casually with another boy.

- He accuses her of behavior she doesn’t actually engage in.

- He is aggressive in other areas of his life: he puts his fist through walls or closets, bangs his fist to make a point, or throws things when he’s angry.

- He frequently roughhouses or play-wrestles with her.

- She makes excuses for his poor behavior or says it’s her fault.

- They talk on the phone several times a day for long periods.

- He has a “tragic” home life: he is or was physically abused or verbally demeaned, and/or one or both parents are alcoholics or use drugs.

- He drinks or uses drugs.

- He frequently gives her “advice” about her choice of friends, hairstyle, clothes, or makeup.

- He calls her demeaning names, then laughs and tells her he was only kidding or that she’s too sensitive.

- She has become secretive since she started dating him.

- She is miserable whenever she is apart from him.

- She has recently become very critical of her appearance, talents, or abilities.

- She frequently has to explain herself to her boyfriend or often says she’s sorry.

- She has bruises she cannot explain or appears nervous about explaining them to me… (Murray 8-9)

Answering yes to any of these questions suggests to Dr. Murray that the male counterpart in the relationship is abusive to some degree. In the context of the novel series Twilight, the main character Bella displays not just a few but almost all of the symptoms listed above during her relationship with Edward Cullen. But why don’t teenage girls recognize these characteristics of abusive relationships in their own lives? For Elizabeth Olson, a journalist writing for the New York Times, the answer is simple. She explains in one of her articles that “few adolescents understand what a healthy relationship looks like” because teenage girls mistake the excessive and even obsessive attention of their boyfriends as an expression of love, rather than a method of control (Olson 2).

Dr. Michelle New, another voice speaking for the safety of teenagers in dating relationships who is also involved with TeensHealth.org, affirms this as well and says that teens in these kinds of relationships mistake the abusive tendencies of their partner for intense feelings of caring or concern (New 1). “It can even seem flattering” according to Dr. New, because these intense emotions like jealousy can be easily misinterpreted as being protective or caring, rather than obsessive and controlling (New 1). It certainly seems flattering to Bella in the Twilight series. She is frequently drawn into lengthy admiring descriptions to project a sense of awe that Edward wants to have anything to do with her while regarding herself with a sense of disdain and unhappiness because she isn’t as beautiful or as graceful as she would like to be.

However, in the novel series, Edward Cullen is a vampire. This is the strongest rebuttal given by fans of the novel series that wish to dismiss the situations in the relationship between Edward and Bella that could be deemed abusive. The question then becomes whether or not Edward’s being a vampire makes his behavior excusable. Are there any circumstances that make abusive behavior acceptable? The risk of saying yes to this question is extremely high. Is it okay for Edward to intentionally break Bella’s truck to keep her from going to see another guy (Eclipse 64)? And if it is, is it okay for any teenage boy to do that to his girlfriend if she wants to see someone he doesn’t approve of? For the passionate fans of Twilight, it isn’t fair to compare the fantasy of the book to the reality of the world as we know it because if vampires were real, maybe this kind of behavior wouldn’t be unacceptable. But the truth of the matter is simple; vampires aren’t real and teenagers who obsess over and idolize the relationships they see in this book series may be desensitized to recognizing this abusive kind of behavior for what it really is.

The days of young women swooning over the noble, respectful, and gentlemanly figures of men, such as Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, seem to be coming to an untimely end. Young and impressionable teenage girls are being conditioned by the novel series Twilight into believing that Edward’s abusive behavior is the “ultimate way a boyfriend should treat his girlfriend” and that is handing a free pass to all the troubled young men in America who are looking for an easily-controlled victim (Emily(TheSlut) 2011). In her article “Abusive is the New Sexy: Why Books like ‘Twilight’ are Dangerous,” Emily(TheSlut), a writer on the Feministing website which gives everyday female writers a forum to publish articles regarding their concerns about current events, is very animated in her protest to the influence these novels have on teenage girls. She asserts herself strongly, saying that “these Edward-loving girls are learning that if a man treats them in the abusive manner that Edward treats Bella, it only means he really loves them. This perversion of love is confusing these girls to the point that they don’t know what real love actually is”. It’s the beginning of a vicious cycle and one that should be very disturbing to parents and guardians of teenage girls who idolize the characters in Stephenie Meyer’s books. The moment when the public begins to rationalize and accept some situations where abuse of any kind has been confirmed is the moment that it becomes acceptable for one person to victimize and prey upon another. No amount of physical beauty or tragic back-story should justify controlling, jealous, and abusive behavior in young men and likewise being a vampire or any kind of mythological creature shouldn’t be used as a mask to hide behind in order to make that kind of behavior acceptable. Painting these predatory individuals in a romantic light gives that vicious cycle a place to begin and offers up society’s impressionable teenage girls to these individuals as lambs to the slaughter, believing that it’s all right for them to be demeaned and treated this way as long as the boyfriend in question has a good excuse. It is a cycle that has an untimely and bitter end, even for Bella Swan in the Twilight series. Putting an end to it and instructing teenage girls that violence and abuse has no place in romance is a task that lies in the hands of parents and guardians who have chosen to turn a blind eye to what goes on in the pages of Stephenie Meyer’s books.




























Works Cited


Davis, Antoinette, MPH.  Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among

Teens.  The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. 2008. http://www.nccd- crc.org/nccd/pubs/2008_focus_teen_dating_violence.pdf (7 Nov. 2011).  Web.

Emily(TheSlut).  "Abusive is the New Sexy: Why Books like ‘Twilight’ are

Dangerous."  Feministing,  April 6 2011. http://community.feministing.com/2011/04/06/abusive-is-the-new-sexy-why-books-like-twilight-are-dangerous/  (7 Nov. 2011).  Web.

Meyer, Stephenie. Breaking Dawn.  1st.  New York: Little, Brown and Company,

2008.  Page 89.  Print. 

Meyer, Stephenie.  Eclipse.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.  Page 64.


Murray, Jill.  But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive

Dating Relationships.  New York: HarperCollins, 2000.  Pages 8, 9.  Print. 

New , Michelle.  "Healthy Relationships Involve Respect and Trust."  Teens Health.

(2010): 1-3.  http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/relationships/abuse.html (14 Nov. 2011).  Web.

Olson, Elizabeth.  "A Rise in Efforts to Spot Abuse in Youth Dating."  New York Times

[New York] 4 Jan 2009, A12.  Page 2.  Print. 

© 2012 Nicole

Author's Note

As previously stated, there are likely a lot of people who oppose my views. That's all well and good, but please don't post a "i hate u cuz u r stoopid" type comment about my work here. First, I won't read it. Second, I'll delete it. If you have a valid argument, make it. If you're "stoopid"... then try to pay attention, maybe you'll learn something from someone who isn't.

My Review

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Featured Review

I like the logic of this chapter. You brought out many interesting points. Dating is hard for both sexes. People show their real self and you can run or accept the weakness. I have three daughters. They love the movie series Twilight. I told my daughters slow and easy. Need to know the person before opening too many doors. Thank you for the excellent chapter.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


I like the logic of this chapter. You brought out many interesting points. Dating is hard for both sexes. People show their real self and you can run or accept the weakness. I have three daughters. They love the movie series Twilight. I told my daughters slow and easy. Need to know the person before opening too many doors. Thank you for the excellent chapter.

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

No idea why the font's screwed up on some of this. Tried to fix it. Oh well.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on January 8, 2012
Last Updated on January 8, 2012



Wichita Falls, TX

About Me... My name is Nicole Conway and, yes, I'm an author. It feels wonderful to finally be able to say that. Believe me, I've worked very hard for it. Writing is not just a passion, not just a .. more..